Three sources came together to create me.
One was our scribbler reading a collection of poems by the poet Shelley, followed by a couple of biographies. She was not only enchanted by both, but struck Shelley’s unreasoning fear of his father, a mystery which was never explained. She was also struck by Lord Godwin’s comment about the poet, “Ah, but he is beautiful! A pity he is evil!” Or something very similar to that.
An interesting comment to make about the man who ran off with his daughter, a man who often came to his rescue when Lord Godwin was in debt. How complex emotions can be, even about those who are a danger to us…or our salvation.
The residents of Paradise bow their heads every day to pale lords who drink their blood and life in the service of their Goddess. We’re expected to obey, but we’re terrified. Byron and I are rebels, regarded as evil, yet the pale lords covet us for our spirits, our creativity, the beauty they feel they can cultivate in us. Lord Ruthvyn seeks to cage us for all of these reasons in On the Other Side of the Mask. I don’t think he can forgive Byron or myself for the bond we’ve formed with each other, even as he drinks in our emotions, the sight of us. Perhaps we remind him of something he himself once lost.
The legend of Shelley reached even me, a poor orphan who belonged our Lady of Paradise’s choir. The only thing I ever had was the right to choose my own name. I chose to be Shelley, to echo his rebel song in Paradise. The rebel song Byron and I sing together was inspired by one of his poems. We both choose our names to imbue some of the spirit of those who’d carried them before.
The second source for me was a roleplaying game in which humans were kidnapped by the fae, trapped in their surreal world; escaping to find they were no longer human. They’d imbued some of the mad beauty of the cage they’d been imprisoned within. They could never escape, not completely. They could never know when they would be recaptured.
This inspired our scribbler’s idea for Paradise, the enclosed city ruled by pale lords no one could escape. It also inspired Lord Ruthvyn’s estate, its labyrithine ways, its living art. The way reality itself doesn’t seem entirely solid on his grounds. Byron and I are not the first caged “songbirds” his lordship has kept in his home. The mystery of what happened to the others, a fate Byron and I could share is one of the mysteries we confront in On the Other Side of the Mask.
The third source is what our scribbler read of Lord Ruthven in her world and the relationship he had with the poet Lord Byron. Byron loathed Ruthven, yet the two lords are often linked together due to Dr. Polidori’s The Vampyre. This inspired out host, a boy once very much like my Byron and myself. Only this boy lost his song. He seeks to find it again in Byron and myself. Who knows how many others he tried to find it in? Perhaps that song is the key to Lord Ruthvyn’s lost soul. Perhaps it is the key to opening the Gates of the Paradise we are trapped within. I hope so. Pray that Byron and I find a solution in our story. We’ve lingered in limbo for far too long.